10 ways to maximize your clinical trials budget
Running a clinical trial in 2021 is tougher than ever. The average cost of developing a new drug has reached a staggering $2-3 billion  so it’s no wonder that clinical trial researchers are looking for ways to tighten up and make their budgets stretch further.
Set-up times are being increased by trends such as the growth of multi-site and multi-country trials; in a sample of 400 trials, researchers found that the average time taken for commencement was between 5-6 months.
The reality is that 85% of clinical trials will experience delays and the impact on budgets can be huge. Here are 10 ways that you can maximize your budget and minimize delays.
1. Start with a Realistic Budget
Scientists, it seems, tend to underestimate the cost of clinical trials – in some cases by up to 16%. It’s impossible to plan for unforeseen occurrences that can stall your trial – but you can budget for them. In March 2020, there was around a 65% global average decrease in the enrolment of new patients year-over-year, so include a contingency large enough to accommodate any potential problems like protocol amendments, recruitment issues or difficulties managing outsourced vendors. Make sure to include known variables like inflation.
2. Be prepared to pay for CRAs
The worldwide shortage of Clinical Research Associates is increasing demand and pushing up wages. One recent investigation found 14,000 CRA roles advertised across the world. Think long term and invest time and resources in attracting the right staff and work hard to keep them. In practical terms, you may need to increase wages, but this will likely be offset by avoiding delays. According to Maria Ladd, Senior Manager, Global Study Start-Up, inVentiv Health, “The CRA/site relationship is a critical factor in the overall clinical trial process. The right CRA can keep site staff grounded and engaged, ultimately serving to meet the goals of both the CRO and the sponsor.” Being willing to invest in the right CRA can ultimately help you maximise your budget further down the line.
3. Outsource wisely
Outsourcing is a trend that shows no signs of slowing, as companies seek to cut costs by conducting trials in more cost-effective locations. The market for CRO services is buoyant, but it’s worth picking a partner wisely. Do your research and choose only those with a proven history of delivery.
4. Have effective Clinical Trials Agreements (CTAs) in place
The increase in the number of trials means there is greater competition for site locations, which can make identification and negotiation a time-consuming process. Having a solid CTA in place before you approach sites can help you to manage this process efficiently, saving precious budget.
5. Better site identification
It can cost between $20 - $30,000 to initiate each site, with maintenance costs of up to $1,500 per month. Recent research has found that up to 11% of all multi-center trial sites aren’t activated. As such, senior research fellow at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, Mary Jo Lamberti, Ph.D., believes that sharing information on the most effective sites within your organization (and potentially with others) can help you to identify the most effective sites.
6. Find the right equipment provider
The global clinical trials supply market is growing at almost 7% a year. The growth is positive, with new entrants increasing competition. However, in the clinical trials supplies market it's quality, not cost, that should be the determining factor. Timely delivery of supplies across all sites can help you avoid any unnecessary delays. Working with an experienced and knowledgeable partner is key - so choose wisely.
7. Invest in a clinical trial data management (CDM) system
Technologies like Clinical Data Management systems are helping researchers to manage multiple data points, improving the way they conduct trials. Increasing the use of technology like CDMs can help you to plan and budget more effectively. With the CDM market growing at a healthy 13% and forecast to reach 14.7% in 2025 it seems more researchers are choosing to go digital.
8. PrioritiZe patient engagement
Engaging with patients taking part in your trial isn’t considered a priority for many but investing in effective communication with participants could help to improve retention. By keeping patients on board as your trial progresses, you won’t need to continually recruit. And in doing so, you’ll save money.
9. Get social
Competition for patients to take part in trials is making researchers think outside the box – and innovating beyond traditional recruitment methods may also be cheaper and more efficient. Studies show that although doctors and nurses feel comfortable discussing clinical trials with their patients, they only refer 0.2% of patients to relevant studies. So, to maximize your recruitment budget, it’s important to find ways to speak directly to patients. Increasingly researchers are turning to social media to engage potential trial participants – but it’s worth considering paid search and online display advertising. This allows direct, precisely targeted ads served to patients or caregivers, helping extend your recruitment reach and use budget more efficiently.
10. Publish on time
Lastly, be sure to publish on time. The FDA can impose fines of up to $10,000 a day if you don’t publish your results to ClinicalTrials.gov promptly. Setting reminders of key milestones can help you avoid any expensive and embarrassing setbacks.
Maximizing your clinical trial budget is a mixture of practicality, innovation and partnerships. Solid planning and a realistic appraisal of the challenges can help you stay on top of costs, but you can’t do everything on your own. Researchers are increasingly aware that working with the right partners is key to maximizing your budget – so make sure to leverage your network and find the right partnerships to deliver results on time and on budget.
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